The role models in our lives greatly influence almost everything about us, our style of dress, the music we listen to,
our attitudes on social issues and our values to name a few. The effect of a positive role model on the worldview of a person
is most profound in some cases. My life has been altered, perhaps without my knowledge for many years. However, through
honest reflection I have discovered one of the three influences on my worldview, religion, philosophy and morality is actually
a character from a movie, or should I say a movie series in general. The specific character is central to the reasons for
a dramatic deviance from what my family (for the most part) believes. This icon of all that is good and just, and in my opinion,
philosophically correct is the Jedi Master Yoda.
Yoda was brought to life by puppeteer Jim Henson of Sesame Street
and Muppets fame in the series of George Lucas Films: Star Wars. Although just a Latex puppet with a dubbed over voice, the
profound message of what the Jedi stand for, as well as the religion that they follow impacted me in a way I have only experienced
two other times. The Jedi, being somewhat strange and radical to the uninitiated, are actually science fiction representations
of Monks or Warriors from Feudal Asia. Perhaps they represent Taoist Monks that only use the martial arts to defend the weak
or the temple when it is threatened. Perhaps they represent the Samurai, who in ancient Japan, were the protectors of the
peasants and royalty alike. I believe that it must be a combination of all of the best mythology of the orient, only with
Lightsabres and Blasters instead of Katanas and Nunchaku.
Yoda, being the last of the Jedi Masters, guides the
young, brash, whiney, Luke Skywalker through the rigors of Jedi Knight training teaching him the ways of the Force. Yoda
teaches many lessons through example, but his seemingly preferred method is the Noose method. This method gives the student
just enough rope to hang himself with, in a figurative way of speaking. The Force is to me a manifestation of the Chi of
Taoism, coupled with the Karma of Buddhism. Following the ways of the Force is extraordinarily similar to the ways of The
Tao, or the Way that a Taoist follows. In retrospect, I can see that this, along with the helpful antagonism of my father
and the insight of the modern Taoist Master, Bruce Lee, lead me straight down a road that rejected my WASPy heritage, to embrace
my philosophical home in Taoism.
Some of the sagely advice of Yoda will forever be with me, as it has on occasion
been just the motivation that I needed to get beyond a difficult time in my life. In Star Wars, Episode 5: The Empire Strikes
Back, when his young apprentice stated that he would "try" to do something difficult, Yoda said "There is no
TRY, only DO or DO NOT." This is was to me profound, in that it leaves no room for explanation, or excuses, as there
is only success, or failure. This is one of the precepts also drilled into me by my Father. In Star Wars, Episode 1: The
Phantom Menace Yoda speaks to a Young Anakin Skywalker, explaining why we must face and overcome our fear, and states "Fear
leads to anger; Anger leads to hate; Hate leads to suffering." This is to me a constant of why there is so much violence
and suffering in our world: Fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of oppression, fear of change, fear of loss and fear of that
which is different from ourselves.
All of these examples may seem to an outsider strange or misguided, however,
I can assure the reader that I do not live in a fantasy land wearing a Stormtrooper helmet and watching Star Wars everyday,
back to back. I do however, look beyond the flash of special effects, and the relatively average acting, to the story itself.
It is the story of good vs. evil, or should I say the balance of good and evil. As such, the teachings of Yoda are central
to understanding George Lucas vision of what our world (universe, galaxy, cosmos, etc.) really is and how life/fate works.
The lasting image of what is right and wrong, what is important and trivial, personified by a Latex puppet, in a Science
Fiction story has been a cornerstone of what I believe, and how I behave.